This was one of my freebie downloads. If it isn't self-published, it's very close to it – I just checked the website for Griffineus Publications, and Sarah Ashwood appears to be the only author they publish. Anyway, whoever chose the cover artist has fabulous taste. It's too bad that I can't seem to find the artist's name listed anywhere, and that the story didn't live up to the artwork.
Aerisia: Land Beyond the Sunset begins in our world. Almost immediately, Hannah encounters an old man named Risean Wy' Curlm, who tells her that she's the Artan, the prophesied savior of Aerisia. Then, despite her protests, he magically transports her to Aerisia, where everyone again assures her that she will save them all from the Evil. First, though, she must be Joined to her Simathe (the Joining is so important that it must always be written in italics). It takes almost half the book before someone finally tells Hannah what the Joining is, although, to be fair, she doesn't try very hard to find out. Lord Ilgard, High-Chief of the Simathe, is supposed to be her protector, but all Hannah wants is to go back home.
It took an amazingly long time for absolutely nothing to happen. Many pages were devoted to people repeatedly reassuring Hannah that she was really the Artan, while she repeatedly insisted that she was just an ordinary girl. Hannah received detailed lessons about the Spinners, the protection of Aerisia's history, and the creation of the Council, but everyone either avoided telling her about the things that really mattered, or Hannah felt too afraid to push for answers. Avoidance was Hannah's specialty. I could have screamed when she let the perfect opportunity to ask about the Joining slip by.
I knew early on that this was not going to be the best read. The writing was repetitive and lazy. The sections from Hannah's POV were written in the first person, and Ashwood didn't seem to have a good grasp of her “voice.” For example, both of these sentences are Hannah's POV:
“The color of his hair was not the normal white of dotage.” (16)
“I swear some word vomit would’ve burst out if we hadn’t reached our destination when we did.” (182)
By the way, the second sentence is referring to Hannah nearly ripping into Ilgard out of irritation and discomfort. The mental image that “word vomit” gave me did not make me feel much sympathy for her. Even so, it still fit her, a Nike-wearing college student from Colorado, better than “the normal white of dotage.”
The writing was like this throughout the entire book. Sometimes Hannah's thoughts read like those of a high fantasy character, and sometimes she sounded more like a modern day American. The latter fit her better than the former, although I hated her tendency to overuse the words “crazy,” “weird,” “stupid,” and “freaky/freaked.” The sections from Ilgard's POV were written in the third person and were much more consistent. I honestly think Ashwood would have been better off writing the entire book in the third person.
Why did I continue reading this? Well, the beginning, at least, reminded me a lot of Fuyumi Ono's The Twelve Kingdoms series. A seemingly ordinary girl transported to a fantasy world, where she eventually learns that she's important and potentially very powerful. It's cliched, but also my personal catnip. Unfortunately, whereas things actually happen in Ono's books, Aerisia: Land Beyond the Sunset felt like it plodded along forever.
Hannah's response to almost everything was to cry, pout, shout, and/or dig her heels in and absolutely refuse to do what she was told. It sometimes felt like I was reading about a giant toddler. Ashwood kept trying to hint at growing romantic feelings between Hannah and Ilgard, but Ilgard's moment of weakness, when he found himself thinking “why me?” as Hannah once again acted like a child, was far more believable. The three or so times she was almost killed were all due to her wandering away from (or purposely escaping) her guards.
I'm still not sure what everyone expected Hannah to do. She managed to use magic a grand total of once, by accident. After the Joining, instead of immediately finding a magic teacher for her, the Simathe did absolutely nothing for so long that even Hannah became impatient. Then, rather than teach her magic, they “taught” her to use a bow. The book's ending only happened because silly Hannah decided to escape the Simathe, despite having no idea where to go from there and no plan for dealing with Aerisia's various dangers.
This was when I was reminded of a worrying line in the Prophecy of the Artan: “She will be untouched by man and untainted by The Evil” (7). This seemed to indicate that the Artan needed to be a virgin. Unfortunately, I was right, and
the Evil jumped to the obvious conclusion that one of the ways to defeat the Artan was to rape her – I guess killing her would have been too easy. Hannah was saved in the nick of time, but it still irked me that rape even had to enter the picture. And, because of the way the prophecy was written, the Evil and its minions could repeatedly threaten to rape her for the rest of the trilogy. Wonderful.
I have no plans to continue reading this series.
(Original review, with read-alikes and watch-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)